The Note: Political S.A.T.

$427 billion and growing, sans Social Security projected spending. The Times seems skeptical that the White House is truly on track to cut the deficit in half by 50 percent.

In the Wall Street Journal, John D. McKinnon Notes that the Administration seems to have set the deficit-cutting bar quite low:

"With anticipated growth in the economy, even a $300 billion deficit in 2009 would equal only about 2% of the overall economy -- far less than the 4.5% of GDP that the White House once projected for the 2004 deficit, the year the White House is using as a benchmark. An administration official noted that the White House estimate of a $427 billion deficit in 2005 is still an improvement when measured against the size of the economy -- 3.5% versus 3.6% for fiscal 2004 when the actual deficit was $412 billion."

The Journal's editorial page has a sunny outlook: "We realize these CBO estimates don't include future spending on the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But as CBO points out, revenues are expected to grow rapidly over the decade, especially in individual income taxes. The progressive nature of the U.S. tax code means that, as growth raises incomes, more and more people are pushed into higher tax brackets, even if President Bush's tax cuts are made permanent."

"Budget estimates beyond the current year are always a guess, and CBO's is hardly more educated than others, but the larger point of these numbers is that with even a modicum of spending restraint the federal deficit will fall back to zero over the next few years."

The cabinet confirmation votes:

ABC News' Ed O'Keefe reports that following nine hours of debate yesterday, the Senate is expected to confirm National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as the nation's 65th Secretary of State today.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported the Rice nomination favorably to the full Senate by a vote of 16-2 with only former Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) voting in the negative.

So far, the following senators have publicly announced their intention to vote against Rice on the Senate floor: Barbara Boxer (D-CA); John Kerry (D-MA); Mark Dayton (D-MN); Ted Kennedy (D-MA); Evan Bayh (D-IN); Robert C. Byrd (D-WVA); and Carl Levin (D-MI)

If that tally of seven holds, Rice's Senate confirmation will succeed with the second largest number of nay votes in history. In the history of the United States, the Senate has NEVER rejected a Secretary of State nominee.

Since 1789, only eight nominees to the position of Secretary of State have received votes AGAINST their confirmation; Rice will be the ninth, historian O'Keefe tells us.

The New York Times Notes the Barbara Boxer/DSCC fundraising letter that went out yesterday. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Sonni Efron puts the estimate by Senate staffers that at least 10 and as many as 20 Senators plan to vote against Rice's nomination right up top, Noting that if that happens, she'd be the first secretary of state since 1981 not to win unanimous confirmation. LINK

The New York Post wonders how Sens. Schumer and Clinton will vote today. LINK

Dana Milbank watched the theater on the Senate floor. LINK

More debate's on the way, the AP reports -- this time focusing on Alberto Gonzales, on whose nomination the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to take its final vote today. LINK

Republicans and conservatives:

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